GNL number 18


A report of doings at meeting #18, Sunday, January 11, 2009
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


…that’s my foremost New Year’s resolution: to be open to goodness and beauty around me no matter where or what the source, no matter who the author, no matter what the party or pulpit. My resolution is to allow myself to be surprised by truth and joy….
—-Daniel O’Rourke, from column in the Observer, Dunkirk, NY, 1/08/09


  • We prevailed upon JACK to lead off this discussion of What Really Matters since he was host, and since we knew he really knows. He was ready with a show-and-tell, his “Spiritual Treasury”, a notebook he’d started in 1978 of handwritten quotes from the Bible, especially Psalms and the Gospels, as well as other wise voices. He said he used to know and recite some of these daily, and the practice had been one of the things that’s sustained him. He voiced regrets about losing some of that ability in more recent times. But Sue spoke for all of us when she immediately said, “But Jack, you’ve become those passages; you don’t need to recite them any more.”
  • ANNA said what was most important to her she’d spoken of before: nature—the wilder the better, and human contact, in particular, this circle of friendship. And she remembered peace vigils years ago when a very important image had permanently imprinted itself in her mind, and this was the sight of Jack, with his open, smiling face and listening ears, engaging people who were angered by the vigil, and ultimately finding a note of commonality with them. She said she calls on this image often to remind her to try to stay open when she feels herself getting offended at someone who seems angry or close-minded.
  • As she often does, SUE had done some research on the theme word, and found that the root of “matter” means source, or very interestingly, mother. (See Afterwords, below.) She also brought some very mattering items: a photo book of her kids and grandkids, and a fascinating big book called Material World, with page after page of big photos of families from all over the world each standing outside their home with all their possessions—and stunning comparisons unavoidable between American and others. We wanted this book in all our schools, and vowed to order some online. Sue also wrote a set of daily poems about what matters, and read these. (See AW along with information on the book, below.)
  • CYNTHIA referred to her long recuperation from the respiratory bug as a time of such forced slow-down and loss of control that she finally had to agree to just let “agenda” arise in its own wisdom, a good reminder. (Sue on a similar note, said getting close to 65, semiretired but still loaded with responsibilities, she was feeling a need to unload and let an agenda from the universe arise too.) Then, in a sense bringing us back to basics, Cyn read and passed copies of the original oldiegoldie, the Golden Rule, in the words of eight different religious traditions, which was itself a revelation (no biblical pun intended, Ann). See AW.
  • VIJAYA said she was leaving Tuesday for a 2-month visit with her sisters in India. With this in mind, her strong image on this theme went back deeply into her childhood there, when she and her sisters sat on the floor playing while her maternal grandmother cooked wonderful, fragrant soup, stirring with a big wooden ladle and rubbing ghi on the bread with that unforgettable ladle—wonderful simple, sweet days, that we could all practically taste. (And some of us made her promise when she came back she would do a cooking class.)
  • For ADAIR, the first word that came to mind when she thought about what really matters was “caring”, and not only because she had always worked in the caring professions. She observed that not just humans, nor just animals, but even simple, one-celled organisms in a sense link up to further life. The other word that arose for her was “patience”; as one who had had many opportunities in her work life to deal with difficult situations and difficult people, she told us how she’d found it very helpful to be able to stay open to people’s hurting and fears.
  • ANN couldn’t be with us, but faithfully emailed some comments, quotes, and of course 6-wordies, which Nancy read. (All appear in AW, below.)
  • Among what matters most for NANCY, were to connect—with dear ones and strangers too; to help— lend a hand wherever needed, make the world greener and more peaceful; to slow down—notice, witness; sit quiet daily; to express thanks for it all—with words, music, pictures, smiles, pass it on; to do new things—learn to play music, cook, make a garden; to go outdoors—walk, move, breathe. She brought 2 items to show: a photo of her 6 children, and a treasure found in her woods—a gnarly old piece of grapevine in the shape of a woman sitting with her arms raised toward the sun—“Carmencita”, who seems the soul of openness and praise. And that reminded her of a morning song she vows to recite each new day. (This, other notes, and quotes in AW.)
  • GAIL said she had difficulty gettiing started on this subject till she was talking with her mother about what’s needed in relationships and raising children. They decided this was yes, intelligence, but more than that, awareness. And realizing how much change she and her family had been through in recent years, especially she and her husband, she knew now was a time she wanted to put a lot more attention and awareness into these relationships.
  • And MARYLOU (who is perhaps chief among the jewels who are Jack’s care-givers, and a woman who has had a long working life in the helping professions as well as a large extended family that includes dear friends like Jack and lots of animals and birds) didn’t surprise us too much when she noted that among the things that really mattered to her, the word today that resonated most was indeed “caring”.


So work like you don’t need money, love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like nobody’s watching.
—Unknown, but via Marc Peimer

NEXT TIME: Sunday, February 8, 2009 (1030) at Jack’s again. The topic is SPIRIT/SOUL/GOD. (Is that big enough?)


from SUE:

  • Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Peter Menzel, Charles C. Mann, Paul Kennedy. Excerpts at NOVA. Copies, new and used, from Amazon.

  • Matter — the mother of us all
    (from the American Heritage Dictionary), n. 1.a. Something that occupies space and can be perceived by one or more senses; a physical body, a physical substance, or the universe as a whole. b. Physics. Something that has mass and exists as a solid, liquid, or gas….

    Indo-European Root: mater- Mother. Based ultimately on the baby-talk form ma, 1.a. MOTHER1, from Old English m½dor, mother; 2. MATER, MATERNAL, MATERNITY, (MATRICULATE), MATRIX, MATRON; MADREPORE, MATRIMONY, from Latin mater, mother. 4. MATERIAL, MATTER, from Latin materi: tree trunk (< “matrix,” the tree’s source of growth), hence hard timber used in carpentry, hence substance, stuff, matter. 5. DEMETER, from Greek name of the goddess of produce, especially cereal crops, possibly meaning “earth”)

Daily Meditation Poems

What really matters
Mama mattering made me
to mother matter

The Mother Is the Real
What matters to us
rules us. May we open
to the reality of mattering—
not asking
what’s the matter
or declaring any facts
of the matter
but diving into what is
real, drowning
ourselves in the heart
of the matter.

What Matters Most
Love’s body moving
through the breath-breeze
of our deepest longings

My prayer shawl,
and the singing
of my prayers

photographs of loved ones
that contain the living
light of love pouring
round their faces

dawn sun bathing
snowy ground and icy trees
in crystals of living light.



  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them.
    —Christianity—Matthew 7:1
  • Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.
    —Confucius, Analects
  • Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
    —Buddhism, Udana-Varga 5, 1
  • This the sum of duty: do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
    Hinduism, Mahabharata 5, 1517
  • No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
    —Islam, Sunnah
  • What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
    —Judaism, Hillel in the Talmud, Shabbat 3id
  • Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
    —Taoism, Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
  • That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.
    —Zoroastrianism, Dadisten-I-dinik 94,5

(adapted from Teaching Values. )

from ANN:

What matters

  • Family, friends, space, senses, patience, justice, honesty, truth, knowing what/when is enough, patience, good health, quiet, logical thinking, caring, patience, my garden, my boat, summers, winters, falls, springs and all the seasonal transitions in between, today, patience, earth awareness, finding out what matters, the urgent/the emergency, right now, the library hours, patience….
  • It changes over the years, learning how to cope with change – adapting, compromising, standing up to the challenges sheds light on the mattering things.
  • One thousand years ago, we did not matter; one thousand years from now, will we still not matter?
  • “The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embrace of one of its beings.” Martin Buber
  • It matters that we understand: Phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny (the whole is a reflection of the individual), we are all one, and E Pluribus Unum.
  • “What does it matter to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” M. K. Gandhi “In Memoriam”
  • Hope matters: Hope Dies Last – Studs Terkel
  • I resolve to be a strange bedfellow – The concept of strange bedfellows, which is usually negative, is in reality just bad labels and stupid assumptions or bad assumptions and stupid labels about people. This thought came out of a comment on the radio of “evangelists working with ecologists to address global climate issues, and wasn’t this a collection of strange bedfellows?”
  • Sue mentioned bringing something that matters to COS. I probably would have brought an old broken off aluminum measuring spoon that my mother always used and within it is all the memories of her baking, cooking and holding the family together – not always successfully – it’s the memories that matter.

Six Wordies:

Buds, puppies, kids; the promise matters.
Does it matter, what you said?
Some know their calling, some don’t.

from NANCY:

Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet.
—Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth

some personal Less/More notes

—Read less/sing and dance more
—Plan less/play more
—Seek less/listen more
—Strain less/enjoy more

and a newspaper column that expresses her feelings on the topic better than she could:

“New Year’s Resolutions,” by Daniel O’Rourke, The Observer, Dunkirk, NY, 01/08/09

Believe it or not this column started out to be on laughter, about its therapeutic effect for our bodies and souls and the need for more of it in our lives. I was reading Norman Cousins’ book, Anatomy of an Illness in which laughter was one of the strategies he and his doctor used. They actually watched Marx Brother movies and recorded a significant increase in pain-free sleep and lower blood sedimentation rates and determined that laughter was beneficial in treating his diseased adrenal system.

But Cousins’ book was about much more than the use of laughter in medicine. It emphasized the will to live. It cried out for a collaborative doctor patient relationship; it was a critique of 1980s hospital practices and an extended account of the value of placebos, i.e. “drugs” which of themselves have no medical value but which the patient perceives to be helpful. (Cousins’ doctor did not use them in his case.) To my astonishment, however, the placebo, if there was faith in the doctor, often worked as well or better than a pharmaceutical. Cousins recovered, but I heard this message loudly: We experience and perceive the things for which we are looking and conversely miss the things right before us that we are not preconditioned to see.

As I was trying to understand this and struggling with my first column for the New Year, a good friend sent me an item about a Washington Post experiment. The Post had arranged with Joshua Bell, one of the world’s foremost violinists to have him play in public dressed incognito. The Post wished to discover if people would recognize talent and beauty in the unlikely circumstances of a cold January morning outside an entrance to the Metro in Washington, D.C.

Bell played six complicated Bach pieces for forty-five minutes on his three and a half million-dollar Stradivarius. It was rush hour and most people just rushed by. Sadly, we are so conditioned that we do not recognize beauty in unexpected places.

“Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. … The one who paid the most attention was a three-year old boy. His mother hurried him along, but the kid stopped to look back at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time….

“In the 45 minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About twenty gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.” Just two days before people had filled a sold out Boston theater to hear Joshua Bell play. The average ticket cost $100.

The message for you and for me? Are we aware of beauty, goodness, and wonder when it is there but unlabeled before us? Do we stop and listen, admire and appreciate? Do we miss the beauty in a child’s laughter? The wisdom in an old woman’s story? The beauty in a snowfall or sunset? Do we fail to hear the music from an unexpected source?

That’s my foremost New Year’s resolution: to be open to goodness and beauty around me no matter where or what the source, no matter who the author, no matter what the party or pulpit. My resolution is to allow myself to be surprised by truth and joy. Oh, I have more mundane resolutions and I will list them because in puzzling ways, I think, they too will influence future columns.

One day a week I will not watch evening cable television (Long ago I’ve abandoned it during the day). I’m sick of all the ponderous, repetitious blather. I should do this even more frequently, but I have to wean myself from this election year addiction. Also one day a week even though I’m often writing on the computer, I will resist the temptation when the email dings to answer messages immediately.

Even though it will offend some of my agnostic readers and atheist friends, I will write more often about spirituality, about those values that light up my life. I will try to leave the red meat politics to others, like Cal Thomas and Pat Buchanan on the right and Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert on the left. I don’t criticize them and certainly see issues more from the left than the right, but all of them tend to paint things in black and white rather than in the luminous colors that dance across the screen of my word processor.

Finally, because after enlightenment comes the laundry, like many of you, I will try and drink more water and less soda, use less salt and sugar and eat more fruit and vegetables. I might even exercise — and yes, I will try to laugh more.

Happy New Year — and a blessed Obama administration to all of us.

  • Retired from the administration at SUNY Fredonia, Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga, NY. His column appears in the Observer, Dunkirk, NY on the second and fourth Thursday each month. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. He has published “The Spirit at Your Back,” a book of his previous columns. To read about the book or send comments on this column visit his website.
  • and a more basic and succinct statement on WRM, a morning song that appeared many years ago, and a year and a half ago

    I greet you, Day
    with open arms,
    with open eyes and ears,
    and with soft hands, soft tender hands,
    I join you, Wondrous Day.
    Wondrous Day, i join you.




    1 Comment

    1. Nancy said,

      January 31, 2009 at 2:06 pm

      I neglected to credit a good friend and supporter for the wonderful New Year’s Resolution column by Dan O’Rourke. We received it from Rev. Judy Scott out in West Seneca.

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